The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 113 Texas State.
Previewing Texas State’s Offense for 2014:
Now that Texas State has found its quarterback in sophomore Tyler Jones, coach Dennis Franchione has elected to install more of an up-tempo, spread offense in the hopes that it will make the group more prolific this season after ranking 111th nationally in total offense in 2013. The Bobcats are loaded at tailback with junior Robert Lowe (945 yards, nine touchdowns in 2013) leading the backfield. Lowe finished 55 yards short of being the first Texas State tailback to finish with 1,000 yards since 2008.
There are a few questions at wide receiver. The Bobcats bring back Ben Ijah (16 receptions for 207 yards). Ijah will need to step up after the team lost Isaiah Battle and Andy Erickson to graduation. The senior wideout offered a glimpse of his playmaking ability in a 33–31 win over South Alabama last October when he caught a 51-yard pass on 4th-and-24. C.J. Best made the move from running back to slot receiver in the spring.
If the Bobcats want to take a step forward in the Sun Belt, they need their offensive line, which struggled with inexperience last season, to be more consistent. Former Arkansas State offensive line coach Brad Bedell was hired in the offseason.
Previewing Texas State’s Defense for 2014:
After coordinator Craig Naivar left Texas State for a job at Kentucky in March, Franchione had to scramble to fill the opening quickly. The Bobcats chose someone with experience in the Sun Belt in John Thompson, who coached at Arkansas State last season. Thompson brings a read-and-react scheme, which places the onus on his players to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
Texas State has plenty of experienced players to build Thompson’s system around, especially at linebacker. This group is led by senior David Mayo, who was the MVP of the defense last season with 89 tackles despite missing two games.
Questions remain in the secondary and on the defensive line. The one player Thompson can count on in the defensive backfield is senior cornerback — and four-year-starter — Craig Mager. After Mager, it turns into a guessing game with Xavier Daniels, Aaron Matthews and Justin Iwuji all gone from the 2013 roster.
The defensive line hasn’t taken shape yet, either. Franchione made the line his focal point during recruiting, mostly because the Bobcats lost all four starters to graduation. Texas State inked eight defensive linemen, including six from the junior college ranks. The Bobcats need at least one of the transfers, possibly Mershad Dillon or Dondre Elvoid (or both), to offer some size inside.
Previewing Texas State’s Specialists for 2014:
After Will Johnson struggled early in the season (0-of-5 on field goal attempts), Jason Dann took over the placekicking duties. Johnson moved to punter, and the Bobcats never looked back. Dann went 9-of-10 on field goals, including a 41-yard game-winner against South Alabama with four seconds remaining. Mager and receiver Brandon Smith are on hand to handle return duties.
This season will mark the first time in the past four years that the Bobcats will have spent back-to-back campaigns in the same conference after moving from the Southland to the WAC to the Sun Belt. Franchione has already said that this is the most FBS-ready roster he’s had at Texas State. The team will again have a backloaded schedule with plenty of tough games in the latter half of the season. The good news is that the Bobcats will play both UL Lafayette and Arkansas State — the Sun Belt co-champions in 2013 — at home.
After Texas State went 6–6 in 2013, a winning season and bowl game would be the next logical step for this program. For that to happen, though, the defense — with a rebuilt line and secondary — will have to overachieve while learning a new system.